32.8 C
Northamptonshire
Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Row over Governments drive to cut planning red tape

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Row over Government’s drive to cut planning red tape Sweeping reforms to the planning system will cut red tape and speed up house building, ministers said amid warnings they could lead to a new generation of slums and ignore local concerns. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the major overhaul of planning policy in England would protect green spaces while making it easier to build on brownfield sites. But Labour branded the move a “developers’ charter”, while the Campaign to Protect Rural England said it was not clear how much local involvement there would be under the proposed system. Despite the Government’s insistence that the moves would create tree-lined streets and promote “beautiful” buildings, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) said there was “every chance they could also lead to the creation of the next generation of slum housing”. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his senior aide Dominic Cummings have both advocated reform to the system and the proposals in the Planning for the Future White Paper published on Thursday set out the Government’s vision. Part of the new process will involve quicker development on land which has been designated “for renewal”, with a “permission in principle” approach that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said will balance the need for proper checks with a speedier way of working. The other two categories will see land designated for growth where new homes, hospitals and schools will be allowed automatically to empower development, while areas of outstanding natural beauty and the green belt will come under the protection category. Mr Jenrick said it takes seven years to agree local housing plans and five years just to get a spade in the ground, and the proposed changes aim to speed up the process. He added: “These once-in-a-generation reforms will lay the foundations for a brighter future, providing more homes for young people and creating better quality neighbourhoods and homes across the country. “We will cut red tape, but not standards, placing a higher regard on quality, design and the environment than ever before.” It also aims to boost the share of houses built by small and medium-sized building firms, which built 40% of new homes 30 years ago but only 12% today. The White Paper proposes that all new streets should be tree-lined and the MHCLG also says “all new homes to be carbon neutral by 2050, with no new homes delivered under the new system needed to be retrofitted”. Councils will also be forced to lay out a “local plan” of where new homes can be built, as only 50% have such schemes in place. The reforms aim to reduce the number of planning cases that get overturned at appeal by creating a “clearer, rules-based system”. A new national levy would replace the current system of developer contributions and “beautiful buildings” will be fast-tracked through the planning system. But RIBA President, Alan Jones, said: “While there’s no doubt the planning system needs reform, these shameful proposals do almost nothing to guarantee the delivery of affordable, well-designed and sustainable homes. “While they might help to ‘get Britain building’ – paired with the extension of permitted development – there’s every chance they could also lead to the creation of the next generation of slum housing.” Shadow housing minister Mike Amesbury said: “This is a developer’s charter that will see communities sidelined in decisions and denied vital funding for building schools, clinics and community infrastructure.” Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive of CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England), said: “The key acid test for the planning reforms is community involvement, and on first reading it’s still not clear how this will work under a zoning system.” The Local Government Association’s chairman James Jamieson said nine in 10 applications are approved by councils with more than a million homes given planning permission over the last decade yet to be built and the system should focus on that. “Any loss of local control over developments would be a concern,” the Tory council chief warned. Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said the Government was proposing to scrap Section 106 agreements which can be used to require private developers to build a certain amount of social homes on a site. “Any alternative to Section 106 must ensure we can deliver more high quality affordable homes to meet the huge demand across the country,” she said. But Matthew Fell, CBI chief UK policy director, said the reforms “will allow housebuilders to get to work”. And the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors welcomed the moves as a “big step in the right direction”. There were concerns about the environmental measures contained within the proposals. Nikki Williams, director of campaigning and policy at The Wildlife Trusts, said tree-lined streets are not enough. She added: “Parks, green spaces and all the areas around our homes must be part of a wild network of nature-rich areas that will benefit bees and birds as much as it will enable people to connect with on-your-doorstep nature every single day.” John Alker, director of policy and places at the UK Green Building Council, said they were “deeply concerned” by the 2050 target for carbon neutral homes. “All new homes must rather be net zero carbon in operation by 2030 at the latest, in order to meet our national net zero target,” he said. Published: 06/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Family of PC Andrew Harper campaign for tougher sentences for police killers

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Family of PC Andrew Harper campaign for tougher sentences for police killers The mother and widow of PC Andrew Harper have launched campaigns for tougher punishments for those who kill police officers. Debbie Adlam told the PA news agency that “something needs to change” after those responsible for her son’s death were handed 16-year and 13-year sentences at the Old Bailey on Friday. She is calling for a minimum term of 20 years for anyone who takes an officer’s life, with no chance of parole during that time. Pc Harper’s widow, Lissie Harper, has launched her own campaign, backed by the Police Federation of England and Wales, for full-life prison terms for those who kill emergency services workers. The 28-year-old Thames Valley Police officer died as he tried to stop three thieves fleeing after they stole a quad bike in Stanford Dingley, Berkshire, on August 15 last year. Henry Long, 19, and 18-year-olds Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers were sentenced for the newlywed’s manslaughter. Pc Harper was caught in a crane strap dangling from the back of a Seat Toledo driven by Long, and dragged to his death. Launching her campaign on Wednesday, Mrs Adlam told PA: “We’ve come to realise that, with the outcome of the trial as it stands, something needs to change. “He is worth much more than this and we’ve been thinking for some time that something needs to be brought in to protect our police officers. “There’s nobody looking out for them and we aim to change that.” Mrs Adlam added: “We’re looking to bring in a minimum term – 20 years. No parole, no reductions.” On Tuesday, the Attorney General’s Office confirmed that it has been asked to consider if the jail terms handed to Pc Harper’s killers are too lenient. Long, of College Piece in Mortimer, was sentenced to 16 years, while Cole, from Paices Hill, Aldermaston, Reading, and Bowers, of Windmill Corner, Mortimer Common, Reading, were each handed 13-year terms. Currently defendants under the age of 21 receive lower sentences, but Mrs Adlam believes this should end. “As far as their age and the reductions go, my personal thoughts are there is no sense whatsoever in being 18 or 19 and getting time off your sentence. “My gut turns when I think about that because you can change your gender, you can get a mortgage, you can serve in the Army, and the thing that really bugs me is you can be on a jury – yet you are not treated as an adult until you’re 21 in the judicial system. “That can’t be right.” Mrs Harper is also campaigning for tougher penalties in a move backed by the Police Federation, which represents more than 120,000 officers up to the rank of chief inspector. She said: “As a widow of a police officer – a title which I would give everything to not have – I have witnessed first-hand the lenient and insufficient way in which the justice system deals with criminals who take the lives of our emergency workers. “The people responsible for wreaking utter despair and grief in all of our lives will spend an inadequate amount of time behind bars. “These men who showed no remorse, no guilt or sorrow for taking such an innocent and heroic life away will find themselves able to live out the rest of their lives free and able to commit more crimes and continue to put people in danger when they are released in a very small number of years.” Mrs Harper is due to meet Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel in the coming weeks. Since 2015, the starting point for a judge sentencing an adult over the age of 21 who has been convicted of murdering a police or prison officer is a whole life sentence. The judge then takes aggravating and mitigating factors into account before either passing a life sentence with a minimum jail term, or a whole life order. A Ministry of Justice source said that the Justice Secretary will set out his proposals for sentencing reform later this year, adding: “No stone will be left unturned and we will look at everything from community orders up to sentences for serious violent crime.” Published: 06/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

UK offers aid to Lebanon as rigorous probe promised into Beirut blast

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UK offers aid to Lebanon as ‘rigorous’ probe promised into Beirut blast A “full, thorough and rigorous” investigation has been promised into the cause of the blast which ripped through Lebanon’s capital Beirut as the UK offered medical and search and rescue experts to help deal with the aftermath. Main image: Before and after the explosion at Beirut's port. At least 100 people died and thousands more were injured in the explosion and while there are no reports of British fatalities the Government said details of UK citizens caught up in the devastation were still being established. The Queen was among those to send condolences to the nation’s president Michel Aoun, saying she and the Duke of Edinburgh were “deeply saddened” by Tuesday’s blast in the city’s port. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab spoke to Lebanon’s prime minister Hassan Diab to set out what support the UK could offer. That would include a package of humanitarian assistance worth up to £5 million, along with experts and a Royal Navy survey ship to help assess the damage caused to the port. The Lebanese government has put an unspecified number of Beirut port officials under house arrest pending an investigation into how 2,750 tonnes of explosive ammonium nitrate came to be stored at the port for years. Mr Raab said the Lebanese prime minister told him there would be a “full, thorough and rigorous investigation to get to the truth – I think the people of the Lebanon deserve no less – and that there will be full accountability”. The Government has said all embassy staff based in Beirut are accounted for, but some have suffered “non-life-threatening injuries”. Mr Raab said the details of Britons caught up in the Beirut blast were still being established. “We are not sure on the precise figures in relation to UK nationals there, we will obviously want to bottom out that in the days ahead,” the Foreign Secretary said. “Obviously we have a consular team there which are monitoring that very carefully.” HMS Enterprise will carry out survey work in the port to establish the extent of the damage. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “At the request of the Lebanese government, I have today authorised the sending of HMS Enterprise to help survey the Port of Beirut, assessing the damage and supporting the Lebanese government and people rebuild this vital piece of national infrastructure,” he said. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the UK must offer Lebanon “full support” to deal with the crisis. The British Red Cross has launched an emergency appeal for Britons to support the relief effort. Mr Aoun said the blast stemmed from the ammonium nitrate being stored unsafely in a warehouse, amid suggestions the material was confiscated from a ship in 2013. As many as 300,000 people may have been left homeless, Beirut’s governor Marwan Aboud said, with many buildings reduced to an uninhabitable mess of rubble and glass. Senior Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat said the Royal Navy should be sent to help reopen the port to get food, fuel and medical supplies in. “Beirut has been a haven of tranquillity in a very troubled region for many hundreds of years,” the chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said. “To find it now in such a rocky road is extremely worrying for all of us.” The Queen’s message to Mr Aoun said: “Prince Philip and I were deeply saddened by news of the explosion at the port in Beirut yesterday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those who have been injured or lost their lives, and all those whose homes and livelihoods have been affected.” French President Emmanuel Macron is to fly to Beirut, while his nation has dispatched two planeloads of rescue workers and aid. Turkey is also sending rescue teams and emergency medical personnel. There are concerns of food shortages and unrest in the city, with the blast compounding anger stemming from a severe economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic. Former Middle East minister Alistair Burt said he expects the tragedy to lead to “some degree of political shake-up” in Lebanon. Published: 06/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Local lockdown imposed on Aberdeen

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Local lockdown imposed on Aberdeen Bars, restaurants and cafes have been ordered to close as lockdown restrictions are reimposed in Aberdeen over a coronavirus cluster in the area. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said 54 cases have now been reported in the outbreak. A five-mile travel rule has been put in place and residents are being told not to enter each other’s houses. All indoor and outdoor hospitality venues have been told to close by 5pm on Wednesday. The measures, which apply to the Aberdeen City area, will be backed by government regulations, the First Minister said, and will be enforced if the rules are not followed. The First Minister said people should not travel to Aberdeen, but those who are already there can remain. She added the changes will be reviewed next Wednesday, when she hopes they could be removed, either in entirety or in part. Ms Sturgeon said they could be extended beyond that seven-day period if necessary. Speaking at the coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh on Wednesday, she said the rise in cases has contributed to a greater fear there has been a “significant outbreak” in the city. According to the First Minister, more than 20 other pubs and restaurants are involved in the cluster. Across Scotland, Ms Sturgeon said 18,781 people have tested positive for the virus, up by 64 from 18,717 the day before. “The last thing we want to do is to reimpose these restrictions but this outbreak is reminding us just how highly infectious Covid is,” Ms Sturgeon said. “Our precautionary and careful judgment is that we need to take decisive action now, difficult as that undoubtedly is, in order to try to contain this outbreak and prevent further harm later on. “As I said earlier, this is about doing all we can to ensure our children can return to schools next week.” She added: “Acting now, we judge, gives us the time and the space to protect the ability of our young people to return to education.” Published: 05/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

TV screen time and video streaming soar during lockdown Ofcom says

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TV screen time and video streaming soar during lockdown, Ofcom says UK adults spent nearly half their waking day watching TV and using online streaming services at the height of the coronavirus lockdown, according to a new Ofcom study. Figures from the broadcast regulator show that during April, people spent on average six hours and 45 minutes each day – nearly 45 hours a week – watching TV and online video, up almost a third on last year. Ofcom’s research said video streaming platforms such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video were the biggest factors behind the increase, with the amount of time spent on such services doubling during lockdown. Disney+ was the biggest benefactor, and despite only launching in March, the service is now the third most popular video subscription streaming service in the UK, according to Ofcom’s figures, having moved past Now TV to sit behind only Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. According to the Ofcom Media Nations 2020 report, as the UK stayed at home during the pandemic, 12 million people signed up to a streaming service, three million of whom had never done so before. This included a notable increase in new subscribers among older adults who had previously only watched broadcast TV – around one third (32%) of those aged 55 to 64 used a streaming platform during lockdown, up from 25% before the pandemic, Ofcom said. Away from streaming, traditional broadcasters also achieved record viewing levels during the pandemic as demand for trusted news programmes grew. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement on the easing of lockdown restrictions in May had an average audience of more than 18.7 million people, while his initial announcement of lockdown on March 23 and the Queen’s address on the outbreak on April 5 both averaged more than 14 million viewers. As a result, those three broadcasts have become the top three most-watched programmes of 2020 so far. Ofcom’s research suggests that the adoption of streaming services is likely to continue, with the majority of adults who signed up to a service in lockdown saying they plan to keep their subscription in the months ahead. More than half (55%) of those asked said they also planned to watch the same amount of streaming content in future as they did during lockdown. Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s strategy and research group director, said: “Lockdown led to a huge rise in TV viewing and video streaming. “The pandemic showed public service broadcasting at its best, delivering trusted news and UK content that viewers really value. “But UK broadcasters face a tough advertising market, production challenges and financial uncertainty. So they need to keep demonstrating that value in the face of intense competition from streaming services.” Published: 05/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Government criticised for quarantine failures and treating kids as afterthought

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Government criticised for quarantine ‘failures’ and treating kids as ‘afterthought’ The Government has been criticised for treating children “as an afterthought” during the Covid-19 crisis and not acting quickly enough to close the UK border in the early days of the pandemic. A failure to quarantine travellers arriving in the UK in the early days of the pandemic “accelerated” the spread of Covid-19, a new report by the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee suggests. Meanwhile, children’s commissioner Anne Longfield said the re-opening of schools “should be prioritised” as lockdown measures are eased, saying schools must be the first to reopen and the last to close during any local lockdowns ahead of pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops. It comes as new laws enforcing lockdown restrictions in areas of the north of England including Manchester, parts of east Lancashire and West Yorkshire came into force at midnight. The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions on Gatherings) (North of England) Regulations 2020 were published on Tuesday afternoon and come into force on Wednesday. Anyone found flouting the rules could be fined £100 up to a maximum of £3,200 for repeat offences. Elsewhere, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has criticised Boris Johnson in a newspaper column for what he called his “slow response” to the Covid-19 pandemic. Writing in The Guardian, Sir Keir said: “Trying to get answers and clarity from the Prime Minister is a frustrating experience. “His instincts – to make excuses and blame others – are reminiscent of the schoolboy claiming his dog has eaten his homework. ” The latest figures show 46,299 people have died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Monday, up by 89 from the day before. Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have now been 56,600 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate. The Government also said in the 24-hour period up to 9am on Tuesday, there had been a further 670 lab-confirmed cases. Overall, a total of 306,293 cases have been confirmed. Reflecting the growing acceptance of face masks in combating Covid-19, the Duchess of Cambridge was seen wearing one such covering on a visit to a charity in Sheffield on Thursday. She revealed on the trip to Baby Basics UK in South Yorkshire that stories of families struggling during lockdown had moved her to tears. The Duchess of Cornwall recently wore a face covering during a visit to the National Gallery in London, and the Prince of Wales has joked about being given tartan masks. Published: 05/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

At least 70 dead and thousands injured in massive blast in Beirut

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At least 70 dead and thousands injured in massive blast in Beirut A massive explosion has rocked Beirut, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings across the Lebanese capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. While the cause of the blast was not immediately clear, speculation suggested an accidental explosion linked to the storage of dangerous chemicals, although US president Donald Trump said American military officials felt it may have been a bomb attack. At least 70 people were killed and 3,000 injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said. Hours later, ambulances still carried away the wounded as army helicopters helped battle fires raging at the port. The blast sparked fires, overturned cars and blew out windows and doors. It struck with the force of a 3.5 magnitude earthquake, according to Germany’s geosciences centre GFZ, and was heard and felt as far away as Cyprus more than 180 miles across the Mediterranean. Lebanon’s interior minister Mohammed Fahmi said it appeared a large cache of ammonium nitrate in the port had detonated. Mr Fahmi told a local TV station it appeared the blast was caused by the detonation of more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored in a warehouse at the dock ever since it was confiscated from a cargo ship in 2014. Witnesses reported seeing a strange orange-coloured cloud over the site after the explosion. Orange clouds of toxic nitrogen dioxide gas often accompany an explosion involving nitrates. Mr Trump, however, said US military generals had told him they “seem to feel” the explosion was the result of a “terrible attack” most likely caused by a bomb. “It would seem like it based on the explosion,” Mr Trump told reporters in Washington. “I met with some of our great generals and they just seem to feel that it was. This was not a — some kind of a manufacturing explosion type of a event. They seem to think it was a attack. It was a bomb of some kind, yes.” Mr Trump offered condolences to the victims and said the United States stood ready to assist Lebanon. “It looks like a terrible attack,” he said. An Israeli government official said Israel “had nothing to do” with the blast. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the matter with the media. The blast was stunning even for a city that has seen civil war, suicide bombings and bombardment by Israel. It could be heard and felt as far away as Cyprus, more than 180 miles across the Mediterranean. Paola Rebeiz was watching television when the blast hit her home in St Nicolas, around a kilometre south of the site of the explosion, shattering all of her windows. “People have died on my street… my neighbours told me not to go down to the ground because there are dead bodies on the street after glass fell on them,” Ms Rebeiz, a PR consultant, told the PA news agency. “The house shook. I don’t have electricity I don’t have water. It’s been non-stop sirens since the explosion.” Emergency teams streamed in from across Lebanon to help, and injured had to be taken to hospitals outside the capital. Some of those injured lay on the ground at the port, Associated Press staff at the scene said. A civil defence official said there were still bodies inside the port, many under debris. Beirut’s governor, Marwan Abboud, broke into tears as he toured the site, saying, “Beirut is a devastated city.” Initially, video taken by residents showed a fire raging at the port, sending up a giant column of smoke, illuminated by flashes of what appear to be fireworks. Local TV stations reported that a fireworks warehouse was involved. The fire then appeared to catch at a nearby building, triggering a more massive explosion, sending up a mushroom cloud and a shock wave. Charbel Haj, who works at the port, said it started as small explosions like firecrackers. Then, he said, he was thrown off his feet by the huge blast. His clothes were torn. Miles from the port, building facades were shredded, balconies were knocked down and windows shattered. Streets were covered with glass and bricks and lined with wrecked cars. Motorcyclists picked their way through traffic, carrying the injured. The blast came at a time when Lebanon’s economy is facing collapse from the financial crisis and the coronavirus restrictions. Many have lost jobs, while the worth of their savings has evaporated as the currency has plunged in value against the dollar. The result has thrown many into poverty. It also occurred amid rising tensions between Israel and the militant Hezbollah group along Lebanon’s southern border. Several of Beirut’s hospitals were damaged. Roum Hospital put out a call for people to bring it spare generators to keep its electricity going as it evacuated patients because of heavy damage. Outside the St George University Hospital in Beirut’s Achrafieh neighbourhood, people with various injuries arrived in ambulances, in cars and on foot. The explosion had caused major damage inside the building and knocked out the electricity at the hospital. Dozens of injured were being treated on the spot on the street outside, on stretchers and wheelchairs. The explosion was reminiscent of massive blasts during Lebanon’s civil war and took place only three days before a UN-backed tribunal was set to give its verdict in the killing of former prime minister Rafik Hariri in a truck bombing more than 15 years ago. That explosion, with a ton of explosives, was felt miles away, just like Tuesday’s blast. Published: 05/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Dozens dead in Beirut explosion

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Dozens dead in Beirut explosion A massive explosion has rocked Beirut damaging buildings across the Lebanese capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. At least 60 people were killed and 3,000 injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said. Hours later, ambulances still carried away the wounded as army helicopters helped battle fires raging at the port. The cause of the blast, which sparked fires, overturned cars and blew out windows and doors, was not immediately known. Abbas Ibrahim, chief of Lebanese General Security, said it might have been caused by highly explosive material that was confiscated from a ship some time ago and stored at the port. Local television channel LBC said the material was sodium nitrate. Witnesses reported seeing a strange orange-coloured cloud over the site after the explosion. Orange clouds of toxic nitrogen dioxide gas often accompany an explosion involving nitrates. An Israeli government official said Israel “had nothing to do” with the blast. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the matter with the media. The blast was stunning even for a city that has seen civil war, suicide bombings and bombardment by Israel. It could be heard and felt as far away as Cyprus, more than 180 miles across the Mediterranean. Paola Rebeiz was watching television when the blast hit her home in St Nicolas, around a kilometre south of the site of the explosion, shattering all of her windows. “People have died on my street… my neighbours told me not to go down to the ground because there are dead bodies on the street after glass fell on them,” she told the PA news agency. “The house shook. I don’t have electricity I don’t have water. It’s been non-stop sirens since the explosion.” The 52-year-old moved into the apartment just two days ago and said her neighbours’ dogs were killed after falling from their third floor apartment – but her cat, called Hope, fell and survived. “Hope always likes to sleep by the window… the window’s frame flew off and he flew down with it,” Ms Rebeiz, a PR consultant, said. “I couldn’t find him, then my neighbours told me ‘there’s a weird cat coming up the stairs’ – it’s so weird as we’ve only been 24 hours in this apartment, he doesn’t know how to get back in. “Thank God, he’s a miracle boy.” Health Minister Hassan Hamad said the preliminary toll was 25 dead and more than 2,500 wounded, which was later updated. Emergency teams streamed in from across Lebanon to help, and injured had to be taken to hospitals outside the capital. Some of those injured lay on the ground at the port, Associated Press staff at the scene said. A civil defence official said there were still bodies inside the port, many under debris. Beirut’s governor, Marwan Abboud, broke into tears as he toured the site, saying, “Beirut is a devastated city.” Initially, video taken by residents showed a fire raging at the port, sending up a giant column of smoke, illuminated by flashes of what appear to be fireworks. Local TV stations reported that a fireworks warehouse was involved. The fire then appeared to catch at a nearby building, triggering a more massive explosion, sending up a mushroom cloud and a shock wave. Charbel Haj, who works at the port, said it started as small explosions like firecrackers. Then, he said, he was thrown off his feet by the huge blast. His clothes were torn. Miles from the port, building facades were shredded, balconies were knocked down and windows shattered. Streets were covered with glass and bricks and lined with wrecked cars. Motorcyclists picked their way through traffic, carrying the injured. The blast came at a time when Lebanon’s economy is facing collapse from the financial crisis and the coronavirus restrictions. Many have lost jobs, while the worth of their savings has evaporated as the currency has plunged in value against the dollar. The result has thrown many into poverty. It also occurred amid rising tensions between Israel and the militant Hezbollah group along Lebanon’s southern border. The explosion was reminiscent of massive blasts during Lebanon’s civil war and took place only three days before a UN-backed tribunal was set to give its verdict in the killing of former prime minister Rafik Hariri in a truck bombing more than 15 years ago. That explosion, with a ton of explosives, was felt miles away, just like Tuesday’s explosion. Several of Beirut’s hospitals were damaged in the blast. Roum Hospital put out a call for people to bring it spare generators to keep its electricity going as it evacuated patients because of heavy damage. Outside the St George University Hospital in Beirut’s Achrafieh neighbuorhood, people with various injuries arrived in ambulances, in cars and on foot. The explosion had caused major damage inside the building and knocked out the electricity at the hospital. Dozens of injured were being treated on the spot on the street outside, on stretchers and wheelchairs. Published: 04/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Coronavirus and lockdown significantly raised mental health challenges study

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Coronavirus and lockdown significantly raised mental health challenges – study Coronavirus and the introduction of lockdown measures significantly raised mental health challenges, particularly for the most vulnerable groups, a study has found. The research, by the University of Bath and published in the journal American Psychologist, is the first to examine people’s coping styles in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. It drew on survey responses from more than 800 people recruited online who answered questions over a 10-day period from April 17 to 26 – when the UK was in full lockdown. Results found that a quarter of those who took part had significantly elevated anxiety and depression, exacerbated by lockdown and isolation. Almost 15% of participants reached clinical levels of health anxiety, which focuses on the fear of having or contracting a serious illness despite medical reassurance. Reaching clinical levels means their health anxiety had become distressing and was likely to be causing preoccupation and disruption to normal activities. Dr Hannah Rettie, from the University of Bath’s Department of Psychology, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has caused global uncertainty which has had a direct, detrimental effect on so many people across the UK and around the world. “People have been unsure when they would see relatives again, job security has been rocked, there is an increased threat to many people’s health, and Government guidance is continuously changing, leading to much uncertainty and anxiety. “What our research focused in on is how some individuals have struggled to tolerate and adapt to these uncertainties – much more so than in normal times. “These results have important implications as we move to help people psychologically distressed by these challenging times in the weeks, months and years ahead.” Participants who classed themselves as “vulnerable” according to Government categories reported twice the rates of health-related anxiety than the general population. They were on average more anxious and depressed, with anxiety and health anxiety significantly higher than in non-vulnerable groups. The average age of participants in the study was 38 years old, with 22% of people who took part having a pre-existing medical condition. Participants, recruited online and through social media, were 80% female and 20% male. Dr Jo Daniels also of the Department of Psychology at Bath, described the research as “important” and said it could help tailor existing psychological treatments. “We are also now better informed as to the likely number of the population that are experiencing clinical levels of health-related anxiety,” Dr Daniels said. “This may serve to normalise distress at this difficult time and promote the uptake of emerging models of Covid-19 related distress for those who may need support at this time of uncertainty.” Dr Daniels stressed that anxiety is a “normal response” to abnormal situations, such as a pandemic, and can be helpful to encourage behaviours such as hand-washing and social distancing. “Yet for many, as reflected in our findings, anxiety is reaching distressing levels and may continue despite easing of restrictions – it is essential we create service provision to meet this need, which is likely to be ongoing, particularly with current expectations of a second wave. Further longitudinal research is needed to establish how this may change over time,” Dr Daniels said. The researchers suggest that clinicians could use the research to target intolerance of uncertainty as part of standard psychological therapies, focusing on developing coping skills to reduce distress. This could be extended to public resources, drawing out people’s abilities to manage uncertainty and reduce reliance on strategies such as denial or self-blame, they say. A Government spokesman said: “We recognise the impact that this unprecedented global pandemic can have on people’s mental health. “NHS mental health services have remained open, delivering support online and over the phone, and we published guidance at the beginning of lockdown to provide advice on steps individuals can take to support their wellbeing and manage mental health. “We have also awarded £4.2 million to mental health and wellbeing charities like Samaritans, Young Minds and Bipolar UK. This is in addition to £5 million already made available to charities through the Coronavirus Mental Health Response Fund.” Published: 04/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Dame Vera Lynns daughter thanks British public for tremendous support

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Dame Vera Lynn’s daughter thanks British public for ‘tremendous support’ Dame Vera Lynn’s daughter has thanked the British public for its “tremendous support” since the beloved singer’s death at the age of 103. The Forces Sweetheart, who entertained troops with morale-boosting visits to the front line during the Second World War, died in June. She was laid to rest last month and Virginia Lewis-Jones said the family has been touched by tributes left at the adored performer’s home in the village of Ditchling, East Sussex. And she shared the family’s hope that people will continue supporting the charities Dame Vera “cared about so much”. She said: “We would like to thank everyone for their tremendous support over the past few weeks. All the wonderful letters, emails, flowers, paintings, and posies left by children at the gate; we were so thankful and touched by them all. My mother always loved receiving messages from all over the world, and Ditchling held a special place in her heart. “She would have been thrilled and touched that so many people paid their respects on the day of her funeral and the worldwide media coverage was exceptional. “It means so much to us to see my mother’s legacy living on. We are sure her music will endure forever but most importantly, we hope that people will continue to support those charities that she cared about so much.” Dame Vera was loved by millions for songs including The White Cliffs Of Dover, There’ll Always Be An England, I’ll Be Seeing You, Wishing and If Only I Had Wings. Her best-known song, We’ll Meet Again, experienced a resurgence earlier this year when the Queen referenced it in an address to the nation about the coronavirus lockdown. Following Dame Vera’s death, tributes flooded in from around the world, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson describing her as a “truly great Briton whose voice and charm will live on to lift the hearts of generations to come”. Published: 04/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub